[meta meta cognition: the wired epileptic brain]

"A rare set of high-resolution readouts taken directly from the wired-in brains of epileptics has provided an unprecedented look at how the brain processes language.

Though only a glimpse, it was enough to show that part of the brain’s language center handles multiple tasks, rather than one.

“If the same part of the brain does different things at different times, that’s a thunderously complex level of organization,” said Ned Sahin, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego.

In a study published Thursday in Science, Sahin’s team studied a region known as Broca’s center, named for French anatomist Paul Pierre Broca who observed that two people with damage to a certain spot in the front of their brains had lost the ability to speak, but could still think.


During the several days that three patients at Massachusetts General Hospital were medically wired, Sahin’s team asked them to repeat words verbatim, and translate them to past and present tense.

In the space of a quarter-second, a small part of Broca’s area — the only part read by the electrodes — received each word, put the word in a correct tense, and sent it to the brain’s speech centers.

This tested only one type of verbal cognition, cautioned Sahin, and the focus was unavoidably narrow, but it was enough to show that Broca’s area is involved not only in translating speech, but receiving it. That role was considered specific to part of the brain called Wernicke’s area.

More broadly, the findings may represent a general rule for Broca’s area, and perhaps other brain regions: Each part plays multiple roles, rather than performing a single task (emphasis mine)."

NB: Image by Ned Sahin on the Wired site.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


[conference: language in the (new) media]

Language in the (New) Media: Technologies and Ideologies

Thursday, September 3 to Sunday, September 6, 2009
University of Washington
Seattle, WA

Download a PDF version of this call for papers

Keynote speakers

This is the third in a series of conferences organized around the role of the media in relation to the representation, construction and/or production of language. The first two conferences were held at Leeds University, England: in 2005, Language in the Media: Representations, Identities, Ideologies, and, in 2007, Language Ideologies and Media Discourse: Texts, Practices, Policies. In 2009, the conference will be leaving Leeds and coming to Seattle.

Conference theme
We invite you to submit abstracts for papers which explore the representation, construction and/or production of language through the technologies and ideologies of new media - the digital discourse of blogs, wikis, texting, instant messaging, internet art, video games, virtual worlds, websites, emails, podcasting, hypertext fiction, graphical user interfaces, and so on. Of equal interest are the ways that new media language is metalinguistically represented, constructed and/or produced in print and broadcast media such as newspapers and television (see below).
With this new media theme in mind, the 2009 conference will continue to prioritize papers which address the scope of the AILA Research Network on Language in the Media by examining the following types of contexts/issues:

  • standard languages and language standards;
  • literacy policy and literacy practices;
  • language acquisition;
  • multilingualism and cross-/inter-cultural communication;
  • language and communication in professional contexts;
  • language and class, dis/ability, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality and age;
  • media representations of speech, thought and writing;
  • language and education;
  • political discourse;
  • language, commerce and global capitalism.

Abstract submission
Please submit abstracts for papers (20 minutes plus 10 for discussion) by email to lim2009@u.washington.edu no later than Thursday 26 February 2009. Abstracts should include a title, your contact details (name, mailing address, email) and a description of your paper (250 -350 words). The conference committee will begin reviewing abstract submissions immediately after the deadline; notification of acceptance will be Thursday 19 March. (Please send your abstract as a Word document or in the body of your email.)

Program and registration
In order to help your early planning for the conference, we have already finalized the basic program structure for the conference a copy of which can be downloaded here (as a PDF). This outline shows the start and finish times of the conference, the main social events (reception, BBQ and conference dinner), as well as lunches and coffee breaks. The conference planning committee is also arranging an optional program of tours and activities for Sunday 06 September. A business meeting for the AILA Network will also be scheduled for the Sunday morning.

Official conference registration will begin on Thursday 19 March, with early registration ending Thursday 21 May. The final deadline for presenter registration will be Thursday 23 July in order to be included in the final program. Registrations after 23 July will be charged an additional late registration fee of $25.00.

Conference registration
Early registration – until 21 May $350
Early registration (full-time students) $300
Registration – until 23 July $380
Registration (full-time students) $330
Day rate registration (accepted until 20 August) $150

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


[webology and folksonomy]

The latest issue of webology is guest edited by Louise Spiteri at the School of Information Management at Dalhousie University, Canada. This entire issue is devoted to folksonomy. We all know that folksonomy was coined by Thomas Vander Wal: "Folksonomy is the result of personal free tagging of information and objects (anything with a URL) for one's own retrieval. The tagging is done in a social environment (usually shared and open to others). Folksonomy is created from the act of tagging by the person consuming the information." From the editorial: "The papers in this special issue reflect the diversity of approaches taken to create Web resources that reflect better the needs of end users. Particular emphasis is placed on the need to manage the increasing volumes of tags and information available on the Web, particularly as more people are becoming engaged with numerous social applications. As is discussed in some of the papers in this special edition, there is certainly scope to consider ways in which to combine the more traditional controlled vocabularies with the free-flowing nature of tagging." Bruce's report on the A Million Penguins wiki-novel fits in well with this issue of webology especially when read alongside Isabella Peters and Katrin Weller's article on wiki gardening as Bruce told us about "gardners" who tend the wiki novel, rather unlike vandels who go in to mess it up. However, Peters and Weller go a step further to suggest a way to weed out mess. They suggest introducing a tag garden that matches synonyms together. Any of you who have search on flickr or delicious (just two examples) will know that search for blog doesn't always turn up results that are tagged with blogger or blogging. But, more literate users realise this and begin to craft their own vocab. controls. I know I don't tag things with blogging or blogger anymore, I just use the term blog. "For our garden this means, that we have some plants that look alike, but are not the same (homonyms), some plants which can be found in different variations and are sometimes difficult to recognize as one species (synonyms) and others which are somehow related or should be combined. Thus, we have to apply some garden design or landscape architecture to turn our savage garden. We may use labels for the homonyms, and establish flower beds as well as paths between them and pointers or sign posts to show us the way along the synonyms, hierarchies and other semantic interrelations (see Figure 2). We need some additional structure and direct accessibility to provide additional forms of (semantic) navigation (besides tag clouds, most popular tags and combinations of tags-user-document co-occurences)."

Peters, Isabella & Weller, Katrin (2008). "Tag gardening for folksonomy enrichment and maintenance." Webology, 5(3), Article 58. Available at: http://www.webology.ir/2008/v5n3/a58.html.

Labels: , , , , , ,


[aboriginal pedagogy and language]

I've just started reading Robert Bringhurst's The Solid Form of Language. A fantastic read and the book itself is a beatiful artifact, all texture and typography, just demanding to be touched.The image of the book on the left is from phil dokas on flickr. He's done a great job of capturing the texture of the book. "Drop a word in the ocean of meaning and concentric ripples form. To define a single word means to try to catch those ripples. No one’s hands are fast enough." ... poet, typographer and linguist Robert Bringhurst presents a brief history of writing and a new way of classifying and understanding the relationship between script and meaning.

Beginning with the original relationship between a language and its written script, Bringhurst takes us on a history of reading and writing that begins with the interpretation of animal tracks and fast-forwards up to the typographical abundance of more recent times. The first four sections of the essay describe the earliest creation of scripts, their movement across the globe and the typographic developments within and across languages.

In the fifth and final section of the essay, Bringhurst introduces his system of classifying scripts. Placing four established categories of written language – semographic, syllabic, alphabetic and prosodic – on a wheel adjacent to one another, he uses the location, size and shape of points on the wheel to show the degree to which individual world languages incorporate these aspects of recorded meaning. Bringhurst’s system is based on an appreciation that indeed no one’s hands are fast enough and that no single script adheres to or can be understood within the confines of a single method of transcription."

As I'm reading this book on typographic and linguistic developments I also have learnt that First Nations peoples of Manitoba (I wonder if this is true for all First Nations peoples?) prefer to use language as their main identifier:

For me this seems to highlight the importance of an oral culture and the tradition of passing on history, stories, teachings - a kind of "collective memory" that wouldn't get passed on if there wasn't the knowledge of language.

Image above of "Plains Cree Inscription" at the Forks Park in Winnipeg, found on wikipedia.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


[txt spkish and learning english?]

At The University of Toronto there is an interesting development in the teaching of English as a second language...using tv colloquialisms ("eat my shorts man," "how YOU doin'" "I'm wasted"). Though these examples don't exactly suggest an "intellectual quest", they do however help students pick up "real-life" English.

"You can have academic English down pat, but that doesn't help when a classmate says `Catch you later' or `Get out of here!'" says Damjanovic, who dreamed up the notion of teaching conversational English through shared viewings of popular shows, with a cram session first on the phrases the class is about to hear.

When Damjanovic moved to North America as a high school student, she spoke English yet had no clue what kids meant when they talked about getting "wasted" on the weekend.

"I thought, `Wasted what? Wasted time? Money?' But these little phrases mean a lot when you're trying to communicate on a day-to-day basis, and sitcoms are surprisingly rich."

Damjanovic is careful to note which phrases are considered rude, a distinction the students carefully write down."

Read the whole article here.

Labels: , , , , , ,


[employment - research positions]

Localisation is the adaptation of digital content to culture, locale and linguistic environment. The Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL) is a large Academia-Industry partnership, funded by Science Foundation Ireland and Industry Partners, with over 100 researchers developing novel technologies addressing the key localisation challenges of volume, access and personalisation. The major research strands within the CNGL are Integrated Language Technologies (ILT), Digital Content Management (DCM), Localisation Technologies and Processes (LOC) and Systems Framework (SF).
We are currently recruiting:
Post-Doctoral Research Positions:
3 Post-Doctoral Positions in ILT (MT, NLP)

1 Post-Doctoral Position in DCM (Ontology Induction)

3 Post-Doctoral Positions in LOC (Workflow, Translation, Multilingual Content)

Post-Doctoral positions are fixed term contracts.

Salary: €38,623-45,401 per annum (depending on experience).

Starting dates: now – November 2008.

PhD Studentship Research Positions:
5 PhD Studentships in ILT (MT, NLP)
5 PhD Studentships in DCM (IR/IE, QA, Ontology Induction)
8 PhD Studentships in LOC (Workflow, Translation, Multilingual Content)

PhD positions are typically for 4 years.
Stipend: €16,000 (tax free) plus payment of registration fees.
Starting dates: now – November 2008.
CNGL provides state-of-the-art research facilities and supports travel to present at conferences.

Please visit
http://www.cngl.ie/vacancies.html for more detailed information on each position. The successful candidates will join well established research groups at Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University of Limerick, Ireland.

Deadline for applications: 31st August 2008 To apply send CV and contact details of 2 referees to info@cngl.ie quoting the appropriate reference (see http://www.cngl.ie/vacancies.html). Please also use for informal inquiries.

Labels: , , , , , ,


[my rss + wordle = tag cloud 2.0]

You can make your own text cloud at Wordle by uploading a link to any site with an rss feed, linking to a delicious feed or pasting in text manually. This application seems to have quite a bit of potential in the classroom...perhaps as a way to help students summarise important aspects from their reading or as a way of offering a visual interpretation of data.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


[colouring significance/mapping meanings]

Gerry McKiernan has an interesting idea (sounds a bit like what Alan Liu suggested vis-a-vis wikipedia authority when he gave a talk at the IOCT last July). This kind of chromatographic writing happens in some southern Nigerian groups like the "Benin and Edo people." (See Cornell's online library for more info.) McKiernan's suggestion has some serious implications for tracking the publication of scholarly materials. Is there a kind of googlereader out there that reads for colour?

"I Propose That All Give Serious Consideration To Writing-In-Color(s) , With Each Color Representing A Respective Level of Significance Within A Text.

The Visible Spectrum Would Be The Basis For The Relative Levels Of Significance Of Given Text WHERE

Text of Least Importance Would Be Highlighted In RED;
Text of Intermediate Importance Highlighted In GREEN;
Text of Greatest Importance Highlighted in VIOLET, and
Text of In-Between Importance Highlighted in Appropriate Colors: ORANGE, BLUE, INDIGO
Initially, TEXT would be COLORED at the PARAGRAPH LEVEL By The Author(s).

Adjoining OR Disjunct Sections of Text Could Have The SAME COLOR.

Upon Publication, The Reader Would Have The Ability To ReCOLOR The TEXT ToReflect His/Her View On The Relative Significant Of Text In His/Her Opinion And/Or Relative To A Particular Purpose.

I also envision a feature by which The Reader would be able to colorlight individual terms and/or phrases.

Readers would also have the ability to assess the value of The Overall TEXT by LABELING THE TEXT with One Color (Color Digg).

The Higher The Color, The More Significant The Text."

NB - what if a reader is colour blind?

Labels: , , , , , , ,


[are you posh?]

Well you know you're posh if you say loo/lavatory instead of toilet, sofa rather than settee, lunch not dinner, and napkin instead of serviette. This is according to BBC 2's Grumpy Guide to Class, a 30 min explanation of how language situates you as either lower or upper class. It was quite funny but I do wonder about the napkin/serviette distinction: should napkin only refer to those of the cloth variety while serviettes are only paper (but then there's that whole French/English divide)...

There was a very funny story about how to sound posh - talk about something not even mildly interesting (like a boiled potato) in excruciatingly effusive terms: that was the most fabulous boiled potato, utterly divine... But one must talk about grave events in mild tones: oh yes, he lost an arm.

Then there was a section on posh names. Posh people have long names: see this image: Hugo Ponsonby Fethergill, or Sebastien etc...Girls' names should end with the "e" sound as in Emily, Chloe, Emmy, Tilly, Ellie...

Hrm...important matters...

Labels: , , , ,


[apparently, i blog like a man]

Ok, so I've read studies that suggest women use more passive verbs than men and, in conversation (f2f and electronic) women are more likely to employ superlatives as well as apologise (i know, crazy eh?!)

Well, now you can check whether you're more "man" or "woman" blogger.

Enter a portion of your blog post over at the gender genie on the book blog and be suprised or at least entertained. According to scientific algorithms I blog like a man...so what's that mean, I'm a proactive, energetic, active blogger and I like to make decisions...must be!

Everything is perception...

Labels: , , ,